Magic Lantern Feature: The Overlay Panel

on November 17, 2014

This panel controls what you see in your Live View display interface.

Global Draw: Your basic setting of whether you want it to be on or off.

OFF- You guessed it (sometimes recommended when shooting video is RAW as it will ease the burden on the camera and you might be able to get a few more frames before it cuts out.)

LIVE VIEW ONLY– When you are shooting in Live View.

QUICK REVIEW ONLY- When you are looking at playback.

ON, ALL MODES– (this is your default)

Zebras

This is the Zebra stripe highlights for you to see where you are blowing out your highlights.

You can set this to several modes: Luma is your “brightness” channel, in laymen’s terms. I find this is the most useful setting.

RGB- this lets you see which specific channels may be clipping. Some may find this useful, especially if you are shooting a very monochromatic shot, but just keep it on Luma.

Focus Peak

This is the baby you want. It denotes areas of high contrast so you can tell where you are in focus.

There are a few parameters it gives you control over:

Method D1xy: it uses an algorithm that is great for use in LOW LIGHT.

Method D2xy: uses another algorithm that it better for GOOD LIGHT.

Yes, there is a complicated explanation of how these algorithms work and what method each system uses, but the basics are, use one in low light, and the other in bright light and you should be good. Don’t overthink it.

Focus Peaking Parameters

Threshold: How many pixels are considered in focus. I find that .5% is good

Color: What color do you want your highlight to be.  I like Green. Green is go.

Grayscale Image: Sometimes it is easier to judge lighting conditions and focus if your live view screen is in black and white. This doesn’t affect the recording- only what you see in your LiveView screen.

Magic Zoom

I love this feature, even though it can sometimes be buggy.  But when it WORKS, it’s great.  This gives me a little box that will show me a zoomed in spot so I can dial in my focus.

You can set your trigger mode several ways:

Half-shutter– pressing the shutter button halfway triggers the little zoom in box

Focus ring: When you adjust the focus ring, you trigger the zoom box

Zoom REC: This lets you zoom in while you are recording to check focus

Focus + Half Shutter: This lets you trigger the zoom box by EITHER the focus ring being adjusted or pressing the half shutter

Zoom in (+): this is triggered by the zoom in button on your camera. Note that tis overrides the default zoom on your Canon settings.

Always on: this describes that one friend you have with bipolar disorder who feels compelled to be the life of every party.

Focus Confirmation Settings for Magic Zoom:

Green Bars: when your camera has “focus confirmation” it will light up some green bars in the frame of your Magic Zoom window. This is great for getting focus quickly and getting on with the shot. It’s not always as accurate as dialing it in by hand, but it is pretty darn close most of the time.   I usually just keep it here.

Split screen: This is a little bit setting for those with some nostalgia: Remember those old split screen focus rings of the early Nikons? This emulates that.

Split screen with zero cross: This is just like the split screen from above, but as soon as you achieve good focus, the split direction will change so you have a clear signal that you have missile lock.

Cropmarks

This is a very handy set of overlays you can put on your viewfinder. It DOES NOT bake itself into the image- it is just a guide for your use. You can also put in YOUR OWN overlays- up to nine on the card.

Cinescope: This is great for shooting video that you intend to put letterbox framing onto.

Cross-type- Thus is the overlay for the traditional photo view or if you need something absolutely centered. This comes in handy for dolly zoom shots or any kind of slider with parallax when you are trying to keep your framing consistent while moving the camera.

Passport– This one is a little silly, but then again, it has come in handy on the one occasion I had to shoot a passport photo for a friend.

PHI overlay– Also known as the Fibonacci sequence was made popular recently by The Davinci Code. It uses the Golden Mean to connect relationships for framing. Things just tend to look more pleasing to the eye when arranged in this pattern, and humans are programmed within our DNA to see this pattern as beautiful because it reflects a mathematical ideal found in nature. If you place an element of the foreground, your subject, and an element of the background along this path, you will find you have a pleasing shot.  There’s one that’s adjusted to account for the letterbox format when shooting video, since the aspect ratio is different.

Ghost Image

This is a very cool feature that I have used on more than one occasion.

This is useful when doing stopmotion video, as it will let you have a ghost image of your preset frame.

This can also be used when doing MATCH CUTS so that your framing is the same in both shots.

I also like this for timelapse-type shots, like if you are pregnant and want to take a picture of yourself everyday.

There are two modes to this setting:

Auto Update ON – CHANGES the ghost overlay whenever you snap a picture (great for stop motion)

Auto Update OFF – KEEPS the same image as your ghost image in case you want to use it over and over.

NB A great way to use this feature is during travel videos. Set up the camera as you shoot your subject crossing from frame-right to frame-left, and take a still photo while this mode in enabled. Keep autoupdate turned OFF. When you can go to another city with another background you can see the overlay of how you framed your first image. Repeat this shot for every city you go into and you can cut it together seamlessly in yout editing suite for a very cool effect.

Spotmeter

This lets you take a reading for brightness within a small spot in your LCD. Unless you REALLY know what you are doing, just leave this alone.

Keep this set to percentage and you can see how close your are to clipping your highlights when you point this at a particular spot in your frame.

False Color

This uses different color maps to evaluate exposure.

If you need this, you already know what this means.

If you DON’T need this, there are a few instances where this may be useful:

BANDING- One of the known shortcomings of DSLRs is the banding that comes along with the h.264 codec. Banding is when the subtle variations in color appear to have “bands” that jump in color or brightness in steps instead of smooth transitions. The banding setting will help you see that.

GREEN SCREEN: This is a GREAT setting if you are ever trying to get a good key from your green screen. The secret to a good key is nice ,even lighting, and this color map will help you see those gradations more clearly.

Histogram and Waveform:

These setting are for people that are very comfortable with adjusting color. If you do not know how to read a waveform monitor or a vectorscope, there many tutorials online. They are not nearly as complicated as you think, but explaining them goes outside the scope of this guide.

I have found that while vestorscopes and waveform monitors are very handy while color correcting in post, the most I need during the shoot is the histogram. If you have a colorist or a DIT on set, they will undoubtedly find this information useful, as will your DP or lighting designer.